A walk on the dirt: Soil microbial forensics from ecological theory to the crime lab

FEMS Microbiology Reviews
Edouard Jurkevitch, Zohar Pasternak


Forensics aims at using physical evidence to solve investigations with science-based principles, thus operating within a theoretical framework. This however, is often rather weak, the exception being DNA-based human forensics that is well anchored in theory. Soil is a most commonly encountered, easily and unknowingly transferred evidence but it is seldom employed as soil analyses require extensive expertise. In contrast, comparative analyses of soil bacterial communities using nucleic acid technologies can efficiently and precisely locate the origin of forensics soil traces. However, this application is still in its infancy, and is very rarely used. We posit that understanding the theoretical bases and limitations of their uses is essential for soil microbial forensics to be judiciously implemented. Accordingly, we review the ecological theory and experimental evidence explaining differences between soil microbial communities- i.e. the generation of beta diversity and propose to integrate a bottom-up approach of interactions at the micro-scale, reflecting historical contingencies with top-down mechanisms driven by the geographic template, providing a potential explanation why bacterial communities map according to soil types. F...Continue Reading


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